How to Walk Dogs & Puppies On a Lead?
If your dog is straining on the lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without pulling with all their strength, it means that you are only controlling them with physical restraint, rather than with the training that should keep them happily trotting at your side. Not only that but, as they get older, the physical effort involved in controlling your dog could be overwhelming, especially if your canine friend is one of the larger, stronger breeds. This means you are less likely to give your dog the exercise they need, as walking has become a challenge, plus you may not be able to control your dog around people and other dogs.
To make life easier for you and your dog, all it takes is a little training and you’ll both be overjoyed at the sight of the lead in no time. Follow these tips to make dog and puppy walking a stroll in the park!
Training your puppy to wear a collar
If you train a puppy to walk on a lead when they’re young, they’ll grow up being happy on a lead and much easier to walk with, right through adulthood. But whether you’re training a puppy to walk on a lead or starting with an adult dog, the best place to begin isn’t with a lead at all – but with their smart new collar!
When puppy training, your dog needs to be comfortable in their collar, so start with one that's lightweight with nylon-webbing so it won’t feel like it’s weighing them down. Choose one with an easy fastening so you don’t have to pull it around or wrestle with it to put it on, which could make your puppy ‘collar shy’. Make sure it is fitted correctly, with enough room for you to get two fingers underneath it. Check their collar daily while your puppy is growing, and adjust it to make them more comfortable if you need to.
Get your puppy used to wearing the collar long before you even think of attaching a lead to it. They probably won’t even notice they’re wearing it if you put it on and then immediately distract them with treats or a fun game! If they scratch their collar, distract them. When they’re not paying their collar any attention, remove it again. Over the course of a few days, slowly increase the length of time that your dog or puppy wears the collar until they stop noticing it – and you’ll be well on the way to a happy, well-behaved walking dog or walking puppy!
Remember not to leave your puppy’s collar on while he is in a crate. While your dog should have an ID tag attached to the collar when out and about, don’t start off teaching your puppy to wear a collar with it attached as it can be more distracting or worrying for your puppy if there is something swinging around!
Attaching the lead
Before walking a dog on a lead, the first step is to attach the lead to their collar. Being on a lead is another sensation that your dog or puppy will need to get used to gradually, but when they do, there will be so much more of the world to explore!
Attach a lead to their collar and follow your dog around the garden, making sure the lead is kept slack all the time. That way, they’ll barely notice it’s there!
After a couple of minutes, remove the lead and play a game together, before reattaching the lead and walking wherever they wander, all the time keeping the lead loose so they feel no resistance.
Once your puppy is happy walking around with the lead attached to their collar, you can begin to teach them to walk beside you. The most important thing to try and remember is that the lead is just there for safety and security – it shouldn’t be something either of you pull on!
Get your puppy’s attention by saying their name and showing them a tasty treat. Use the treat to lure them to your side and then take a few steps forward. Your puppy should follow the treat walking forward beside you. Keep your hand low so the puppy doesn’t jump up. After a few steps reward them with the treat.
Practise this a lot – building up the number of steps you can do before giving them the treat. Before long, you will be able to say their name and walk forward – and they will happily come with you without the lure of the treat. You can reward them at the end after you have done as many steps as you think your puppy can manage without losing concentration. Do not expect too much! Your puppy is only a baby and can’t concentrate for too long!
If your dog lags behind, lure them with the treat, be more animated in your actions and use a more excited tone of voice – just like you, your dog can get bored.
If your dog pulls ahead whilst walking on a lead, it’s because they want to get somewhere fast. Simply stand still (or even start walking backwards), call them back to your side (luring them with the treat if you have to), and start again. You have to be consistent in this so your puppy learns that pulling will never get them anywhere faster! Your training sessions are so exciting, especially to a young dog, that walking might involve a bit of puppy over-enthusiasm so you may need to do this often. Do not be tempted to pull, jerk or yank on the lead.
Puppy training will get easier though - your dog will quickly understand that pulling on a lead is counterproductive to getting anywhere – and that the treats are better if they stay with you!
New encounters when dog walking
Once your dog is walking on a lead in your garden (and they have been fully vaccinated), begin walking with them on the lead in other areas. Walking a dog on a lead isn’t always plain sailing - remember that they will want to investigate new sights, new sounds and new smells, so don’t expect too much too soon. You will have to work harder when faced with competition for your dog’s attention so take some special treats and teach them that focusing on you is worth it! Keep training sessions short and positive, always ending on a success, and then have a fun play session together.
Meeting people and other dogs
Ask your vet or local training club about reward-based training classes that can teach you how to walk a puppy or adult dog on a lead. They’re one of the best ways to prepare you for walking your dog and for trips into the wider world together. You can look at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website too in order to find trainers in your area (apdt.co.uk).
Walking a puppy on a lead, isn’t always straightforward - many dogs get very excited when they see another person or dog walking towards them and start pulling on the lead to greet them! It is important to pre-empt this behaviour so that it doesn’t occur. (It’s also where spending so much time puppy training pays off!)
If you see someone approaching, get a treat from your pocket, say your dog’s name to get their attention and then show them the treat, which they should focus on. As they walk past the person, give them lots of praise and then stop and give them the reward. They will soon learn good manners if they are rewarded like this.
Once your dog is happily and reliably walking on a loose lead, reduce their rewards and only give them the occasional treat for especially good lead-walking (such as walking calmly past a exciting distraction, like another dog or even a cat). Do not stop giving rewards altogether – a random reward will keep your dog’s interest and concentration far better than constant rewards or none at all!
Remember to stay interesting. Often dogs pull because their owner walks too slowly or because they are boring! Stay active when you are walking (it’s good for your fitness too) and change speed and direction often – just for fun!
Dog or puppy pulling on lead
If your dog is pulling on his lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without dragging you and you are finding it hard to stop them, consider trying an anti-pull harness. Never use a choke chain (or ‘check’) collar or prong collar. Training should always be a positive, reward-based experience that encourages bonding between you, and never with the use of punishment – this may lead to fear and a breakdown of the trust your dog has in you, which is always counter-productive in the end!
Harnesses enable you to have more control with your puppy especially if they are a larger breed. Again, you need to ensure you have the right size harness for the size of your puppy and, much like training with the collar, start by putting your puppy in the harness for short periods of times and slowly build this up. Soon your puppy will associate the harness with a pleasant experience of going for a walk. If you are really struggling, find a local trainer who can help you.
No matter what point you’re starting from, with a little love, encouragement and patience, you will be able to go on some truly memorable and special journeys when walking the dog. If you’re looking for even more tips when exercising your dog check out our ‘Healthy Exercise Guide’.